Whether it’s the combined impact of the two filmmakers’ most recent work on gangster thrillers, or a case of just plain bad moviemaking, Body Of Lies and its CIA setting in the midst of Middle Eastern terror circles plays out as less political intrigue than cops busting heads in the hood. Director Ridley Scott (An American Gangster) and screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed), who seem intent on displaying the how of multiple assorted methods of butchering one’s political adversaries than why, that it’s nearly impossible to ever get into rooting for the designated CIA good guys, and as nothing more than avid serial killers.
Though spreading out across continents on an epic scale, Body Of Lies is essentially a more hermetic duet, as Russell Crowe’s pudgy CIA honcho Hoffman phones in a series of clandestine execution instructions to Middle Eastern operative Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) between handfuls of junk food at his suburban Virginia digs. This pair of odd couple, government ordained off-the-books murder incorporated thuggish protagonists alternates between butting heads over covert murder methods, and moments of intended comic relief banter which is just not funny, under the circumstances.
After pulling off an incineration of an entire insurgent hideaway in the desert, during which these unbelievably dumb and dumber seasoned fighters have no idea that Leonardo’s friendly white infiltrator isn’t an Arab, Ferris heads off to Amman, Jordan for further instructions from his eating disorder text messenger mate. This, while engaging on the side in a little Geneva Conventions dodging, free lance maneuvers of his own, shooting suspicious pedestrians in the back of the head in broad daylight.
Ferris’ new assignment is to lure an apparently shy mystery terrorist out into the cold, with a little help from the local intelligence chief (Mark Strong), a dandy in designer suits who has his nails done between pulling out with pliers those of his disappeared torture victims. When captured for a bit himself, Ferris takes some applied finger crushing in relative stride, while remaining lucid enough to deliver a speech scolding his captors for being sucker dupes as fleeting tools of the oil companies. Huh?
Body of Lies and its unfortunately all too revealing title about this movie, demands of the audience that its global cowboy politics are an acceptable given, and don’t have to be earned or even convincing. And while the macho swagger and bullying tactics of these US infiltrators around the planet with their extra-legal methods have all the finesse of a wrestling ring, imperialism comes off as really sexy.
Though DiCaprio plugs into his performance with dedicated gusto, the movie is finally excessively shrill, convoluted and distasteful, when not outright ridiculous. Body Of Lies: An Amman Gangster
1 1/2 stars